Browns do what Browns do, help get Redskins back on track

Considering how infrequently the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns play one another, it’s amazing how similar the two franchises are.

For starters, both teams have struggled with constant turnover at football’s most important positions — head coach and quarterback — which ultimately leads to disfunction and turmoil. As the losing seasons have piled up over the last decade and a half, the Redskins and Browns have both become a punchline to the rest of the NFL.

And then you’ve got the quarterback looking for a shot at redemption against his former team. Of course I’m talking about Colt McCoy, who played for Cleveland for three seasons before he was traded to San Francisco. Oh, and I guess the same could be said about Robert Griffin III, who might have spent some time in Washington as well. Sadly, for both guys, McCoy and Griffin were nothing more than spectators Week 4.

But Griffin wasn’t the only player making a return to FedEx Field. Defensive lineman Stephen Paea, center Austin Reiter (who apparently tore his ACL in his NFL debut Sunday) and former Redskins offensive coordinator Al Saunders (and his 700-page playbook) also returned to our nation’s capital Sunday. Even the Browns current head coach, Hue Jackson, spent two seasons in Washington — serving as a running backs coach under Marty Schottenheimer and Steve Spurrier.

And yet, with all of those similarities, the Redskins defeated the Browns 31-20 in a very different fashion. For three weeks, Washington has lacked a consistent ground game and struggled to score in the red zone. The Redskins excelled in both areas against Cleveland — with touchdowns on four trips to the red zone and Matt Jones finishing with 117 yards on the ground.

The Redskins defense hasn’t been very good in 2016, allowing tons of yards and points while failing to create many turnovers. With injuries mounting Sunday, Washington’s defense limited the Browns to just three second-half points while creating three turnovers when the outcome of the game was still very much in the balance. There’s still plenty of room left for improvement, but things look way better than they did two weeks ago when the 2016 season was on the verge of disaster.


The headliners from Farm Aid 31

Farm Aid was started by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp back in 1985 to keep family farmers on the land and has worked since then to make sure everyone has access to good food from family farmers. Add in Dave Matthews, who joined Farm Aid’s board of directors in 2001, and you’ve got four of the biggest names in music getting together once a year for a very worthy cause.

Listening to Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds play “Crash Into Me” live was a treat. Even if he’s lost his Cougar, John Mellencamp can still deliver — as was evident with “Small Town.” Neil Young took to the stage with Promise of the Real and left everything they had on the stage with “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Seriously, watch the video just so you can see the four false finishes they did. And the crowd went nuts every single time. It was awesome.

And then there’s Willie Nelson. At 83, that man could simply walk up on stage, say thank you for coming out and go find a seat in the shade. Of course, he’d never let that happen. Instead, he’s the main event. He’s the headliner. He’s the guy who steals artists away seconds before I have the chance to interview them. But I digress.

He’s a legend who can do whatever the hell he wants and we’re all still going to love him. I particularly enjoyed him covering “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grown Up To Be Cowboys,” so here’s a link to that performance.

All in all, my first time attendance Farm Aid couldn’t have gone any better. I enjoyed each and every musical act that took the stage, the people behind the scenes were a pleasure to work with and the thousands of concert-goers were fun to be around. Hopefully Farm Aid 32 won’t be too far away, because I’d love to come back for an encore.


Alabama Shakes

The Alabama Shakes have been around a little while now, so even if you’re unable to name any of their songs, chances are you’ve at least heard of the band.

Of course, winning a Grammy — which the band did back in 2009 — makes it easier to spread the word about a group that originally formed back when they were in high school in Athens, Alabama.

The band, which currently consists of lead singer Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell and drummer Steve Johnson, is good. They have a couple albums now that you can put on in the background while you’re cleaning up around the house or stuck in rush-hour traffic.

But here’s the thing — you absolutely HAVE to see them live to truly appreciate them. As you can see from my photos, when Brittany Howard sings something, she absolutely means it. Every word that comes out of her is delivered with a passion and conviction that cannot be ignored.

I wasn’t alive to see Janis Joplin perform, but listening to old school live performances of Joplin in her prime moves a person. I’m not saying Howard is the modern-day Joplin — that wouldn’t be fair to her. But the soul and expressive nature of her performances is definitely a throwback.

If you weren’t fortunate enough to be there live and in person to witness the Alabama Shakes killing it on stage, then do yourself a favor and check out a few of their performances. Here’s a link for “Heartbreaker,” “Joe” and “Gimme All Your Love.”


Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats

If I’m being completely honest, I have no clue why Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats aren’t a bigger deal. My wife and I absolutely love them and anyone who has ever seen them live walks away thoroughly impressed. Hell, even my five-year-old really enjoys belting out their tunes when we’re in the car.

But for whatever reason, they haven’t quite risen to the level I feel like they should be at. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely have a passionate and supportive fanbase and have begun consistently playing larger venues over the last year, but seriously, the rest of the music loving world needs to get on board with these guys.

If you’re not familiar with Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, then take a minute to watch their music video for “S.O.B.” If that doesn’t win you over, I don’t know what will. Their throwback sound is a welcome respite from so much of the generic pop nonsense that fills the airwaves these days.

When I heard Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats were playing Farm Aid this year, that’s when I knew I needed to clear the calendar on September 17th. When I was contacted by Brightest Young Things to actually work Farm Aid as a credential photographer … well … that was just icing on the cake.

So I get to Jiffy Lube Live and make my way over to the media tent and immediately am drawn to a sign-up sheet on a clipboard. Any media requesting to interview any musician simply needed to fill out the form and they would do their best to accommodate. There was zero chance I was going to pass up the opportunity to talk to Mr. Rateliff, so I put down my information and crossed my fingers.

A short while later, I received a call on my cell phone while I was down in the photo pit. The wonderful person running the media circus for Farm Aid informed me I would be interviewing Nathaniel at 5:15 p.m., which was in a little more than an hour.

It took everything I had in me to keep my composure and, in sports terms, “act like I’d been there before.” But I kept it together and at 5 o’clock, I met up with my media escort who took me backstage to go meet one of my favorite artists alive today.

We walked a series of 18 wheelers and tour buses, through the buffet area for the artists and their roadies and there we were — standing outside the doorway of the green room for Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.

Here’s the best part: right as the media escort was getting ready to knock on the door, the bands’ manager came flying in from the other direction and entered the room in a hurry. We weren’t really sure what was going on, so we held tight for a second to see what all of the commotion was about.

And then Nathaniel Rateliff walked out the door. And kept walking. And then he was gone. But we were still standing there.

After a few seconds, the bands’ manager walked over to us and said, “Willie Nelson just asked Nathaniel to come hang out with him, so we’re going to have to do this interview another time.”

Sadly, I never did get to interview Nathaniel Ratliff. I didn’t even get to talk to the Night Sweats. But what I did get a pretty good story about that time Nathaniel Rateliff chose to hang out with Willie Nelson over me at Farm Aid 31. And that’s a pretty solid consolation prize, if I do say so myself.

If you missed their set, here are a few videos of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats performing at Farm Aid 31. Enjoy them before Willie Nelson takes them away from you.


Photos from Farm Aid 31

According to the official website, Farm Aid’s annual concert is an all-day music and food festival, featuring a unique lineup of artists and genres and family farm-identified, local and organic foods with its own homegrown concessions.

Although Farm Aid has been around since 1985, I had never actually attended one before this year, which is ridiculous because I love live music and am always impressed by the festival’s lineup year after year.

This year’s show was at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia, which is way more convenient than Chicago, North Carolina or New York (where it’s been held the last three years). So honestly, there was no excuse for me to miss the festivities.

Here’s what stood out to me when it was all said and done — sure, everyone knows and loves artists like Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, but what was really impressive with Farm Aid 31 was just how solid the rest of the lineup was. I’m a big fan of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and Alabama Shakes (there will be posts on both bands later), but I walked away from the show with newfound respect for the rest of the artists (many of whom I wasn’t familiar with).

With those artists in mind, here are my favorite images of Ian Mellencamp, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Margo Price, Jamey Johnson with special guest Alison Krauss and Sturgill Simpson.


Redskins embarrassed again in primetime

Coming into the season opener, continuity has become the norm with the Washington Redskins, which hasn’t really ever been the case since Daniel Snyder bought the franchise. While it’s been a jarring adjustment for some, the roster is no longer in a state of constant turnover, the coaching staff hasn’t been radically redone and the foundation of a respectable franchise are evident. In short, the Redskins don’t really resemble the punching bag the rest of the NFL lovin’ world has come to know and mock.

That being said, the home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers went about as poorly as possible. The Redskins once again lost to a Pittsburgh team they have not beaten since 1991 and dropped to a pitiful 2-15 at FedEx Field during Monday Night Football games. All of the excitement and good will the quiet offseason ushered in quickly evaporated as the Redskins were drubbed 38-16, and now panic has set in as Washington attempts to start the season with back-to-back home losses.


Redskins hold 2016 rookie camp

As I drove out to Redskins Park to cover this year’s rookie camp, it dawned on me that this is my 12th season covering the burgundy and gold for ExtremeSkins. Had someone told me back in 2005 when I was first given this amazing access that I would last longer than any of the players on the roster that season, I would have called them crazy.

And yet, here I am.

Rookie camp is always a time for unabashed optimism. It’s the first chance to see the team’s newest toys — to see if the front office swung and missed during the NFL draft or possibly unearthed a hidden gem. On this day, I was particularly excited to see USC standout Su’a Cravens and Virginia Tech defensive back Kendall Fuller.

Unfortunately, Cravens was participating in drills on the field furthest from the location where the media was allowed to stand and Fuller was recovering from injury. So I settled for a morning with the team’s surprising first-round pick, TCU wide out Josh Doctson, and sixth-round pick Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld.

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